News that his ship would be allowed to leave the Ukrainian port of Odesa carrying grain was the “best feeling” of the year, a joyful crew member said on Monday, adding he was worried about mines.
The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni left Odesa bound for Lebanon on Monday with 27,000 tonnes of grain.
“It was a great feeling,” junior engineer Abdullah Jendi, from Syria, said. “Everyone on the ship was very happy. I can say that it was the best feeling we have had in 2022.”
The ship will pass through the Bosphorus Strait on Tuesday.
“To be honest, I am scared from the fact that there are naval mines,” Jendi said. “This is the only thing that I fear during this trip, as for the other things, we are used to them as sailors.”
The sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain-and-fertiliser export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month – a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that is grinding on with no resolution in sight.
It was the first departure since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine five months ago blocked shipping through the Black Sea.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat exports.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports. The Kremlin called the Razoni’s departure “very positive” news.
Jendi said alarms would go off in Odesa every day and the crew feared they would never get to go home.
“We did not know when we would be released, so we lived every day on the hope of being released,” he said.
“As for other dangers, in the beginning there was a lack of food and water supplies reaching the ship, as there was a lockdown when the war started. When the restrictions were eased, we were able to go to the city and buy what we needed and clear our minds from the stress.”
He said the plan was to reach Istanbul on Tuesday and refuel.
“We will also need to do a few simple routine repairs that we do to any ship after it is docked. We will then go to another Turkish port, which will be assigned by the Turkish port authorities, and then head to Tripoli’s port, where the ship will unload.”
He said Lebanon, suffering its worst political and economic crisis in decades, was chosen “because of the circumstances they’re facing”.
He said the journey should take about a week.
“The feeling is indescribable. It is so important to live in security, because I spent a while experiencing the feeling of danger, the great fear knowing that at any moment something could happen to us because of the air strikes.
“We couldn’t even turn on the lights at night. We couldn’t be outside at night for our safety.” he said. “The port would be completely dark for security reasons.”
He said of being able to leave: “It’s a great feeling, I haven’t seen my family in over a year because of my work at sea.”
Jendi said: “Both sides at war will lose, even the victor of war will have lost because of the human and material losses.
“In my opinion, the people of Ukraine don’t deserve this because they are good and peaceful people.”